About Us

 Ian Yeowart – Managing Director

Managing Director Ian Yeowart started his railway career in 1973 at Toton Diesel Depot.  His career took him to various parts of the country, rising to become Area Retail Manager for the Sheffield and Leeds areas in Yorkshire, then Company Safety Manager for Regional Railways North East. Ian left the publicly owned British Rail in 1994 to pursue opportunities within the privatised rail network.

Ian founded both the Grand Central Railway Company (Grand Central) and the Great North Eastern Railway Company (GNER) in 1994. The GNER name was later sold to Sea Containers whilst under Ian’s leadership Grand Central successfully secured rights to operate ‘open access’ services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between Sunderland and London in 2006 and later in 2009 between Bradford and London.

Ian founded Alliance Rail Holdings (Alliance) in 2009, with the aim of restoring and introducing new direct inter-city rail services between London and many important towns and cities in the North and Midlands.

Ian has a wealth of experience in the disciplines required in making successful open access applications, and has assembled a strong and experienced team at Alliance’s York headquarters.

 Chris Hanks – Head of Development

Chris is an engineering graduate with more than 30 years’ experience in the rail industry. Starting in British Rail’s Operational Research Department, Chris worked in a number of roles in BR’s Eastern and Southern Regions before joining the BR Business Systems’ team in York to help develop a new train planning system.  

Chris joins Alliance from Funkwerk Information Technologies, where he was Consultancy Manager. In that role Chris managed a wide variety of train service planning, timetable robustness and simulation projects, and Chris was influential in gaining train paths to Sunderland and Bradford for Grand Central. Prior to that, Chris led the development of TrainPlan, which is in use as a train planning system in major railways around the world, and designed ResourceManager, a software tool for managing the minute-by-minute assignment of rail vehicles and crews.

Chris prides himself on original thinking in his work, backed up by attention to detail and thorough analysis. He has worked effectively with railway managers around the world, from Norway to Australia, and is able to bring international knowledge to his new role.  That role, as Head of Development, will be to develop service plans and timetables for GNWR and GNER’s new services on behalf of Alliance.

Jonathan Cooper


Jonathan is a marketing and business masters graduate with 23 years experience in the rail industry. Jonathan began his career with British Rail (Eastern Region) in Leeds, moving to work in the Regional Railways business review team based in York. Jonathan then moved to work for Railtrack in York and Birmingham and subsequently with Network Rail in Birmingham, York and London. 

Jonathan has held many different roles at Network Rail, including Regional Commercial Development Manager, Performance Manger and Track Access Manager. Within Network Rail, he has worked on several Open Access proposals and as part of Network Rail’s franchise bid review team, he was also involved in negotiating new contracts, training teams in track access and developing commercial policy.

Jonathan has joined the team as Head of Contracts and Compliance.

 Chris Brandon – Head of Systems

For the past three years Chris was responsible for all Business Systems at Grand Central Railway Company. Starting there in 2007 Chris has been involved in the implementation of both the Sunderland service group in late 2007 and the West Yorkshire service group in May 2010. With a strong background in IT Chris was also heavily involved in commercial areas particularly fares implementation.  Chris’s role is to manage all business systems and to ensure Alliance captures the economic value of services to the communities it will serve, whilst ensuring compliance with all aspects of licensing, access and ticketing.

 Neil Yeowart – Head of Communications

One of the original members of the Grand Central team from 2006, Neil assisted the company from its launch as Resource Planning Manager helping to appoint and assemble  the Traincrew in preparation for the launch of operations in 2007. Neil then went on to successfully edit and publish the critically acclaimed ‘GC Magazine’, Grand Central’s onboard publication which ran throughout 2008 and 2009. Neil’s role at Alliance is to expand upon his knowledge of the latest media and marketing tools to ensure that Alliance’s message is regularly communicated to all stakeholders.